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Westbury selects projects to revitalize its downtown with $10M grant

A new village arts council headquarters, a pedestrian plaza and rezoning of the area near the LIRR station are among the Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects on tap. 

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro seen on Thursday in

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro seen on Thursday in front on a property that was purchased as part of the village's downtown revitalization effort. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Two years after Westbury was awarded a $10 million state grant for downtown revitalization, officials said plans are steadily progressing for the seven projects selected from the dozens brainstormed by the community.

A permanent home for the Westbury Arts Council, rezoning the downtown to make way for transit-oriented development and creating a pedestrian plaza to connect the downtown to the Long Island Rail Road station are among the wishlist items that the state grant is making possible, they said.

Mayor Peter Cavallaro said he believes the projects will be both transformative and more sustainable for the village’s future.

“I think it is a tremendous opportunity for us to make huge steps that we hoped we could make, but we didn’t have the resources to make,” Cavallaro said.

In July 2016, Westbury was one of 10 communities throughout the state selected for the first year of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The village spent the months holding multiple rounds of community meetings to drum up project ideas. In May 2017, the seven priority projects were selected.

Cavallaro said village officials are “really satisfied with the projects that we’ve identified,” which span housing development, arts and business improvement. The projects, which are being administered by different state agencies, are in various stages of progress, but several — such as the new Arts Council building — are starting to take form, he added.

A month ago, the village closed on a 3,500-square-foot, two-floor property at 255 Schenck Ave. for $640,000 to serve as the arts council’s new headquarters. The village is now seeking design services, with the ultimate goal of opening next summer.

Julie Lyon, the arts council’s president, said that there were many ideas for the new space, such as hosting gallery exhibitions and performances, with the goal to not only bring the village’s diverse community together but also to attract other Long Islanders to the area.

“Art has the ability to bring together people from diverse backgrounds for a common goal or a common interest,” Lyon said.

This is also the goal for other big-ticket projects, such as rezoning more than 25 acres close to the LIRR station near Union and Maple avenues to facilitate new housing and retail development. The village has selected a planning team led by Manhattan-based BJH Advisors to embark on an extensive environmental study of the area to assess the potential effects of rezoning, with a completion timeline by next summer.

Kei Hayashi, a principal at the firm, said that the team is waiting for the state to formalize a contract to fund the professional services and that the process is moving forward.

With one year passed since the projects were funded, Cavallaro said the “onus” is on the village to maintain the momentum of progress while waiting for state approvals.

“As a local official, I always want things to move faster. … But I think I’m happy that we’re at the point where we are," Cavallaro said. "We’re committed and have the money to spend.”

Working down the wish list

$785,000 Creating a pedestrian plaza to improve the connection between downtown Westbury and the LIRR station

$3.56M Streetscape improvements along Post Avenue from Northern State Parkway to Old Country Road

$970,000 Rezoning the downtown to promote transit-oriented development

$600,000 Creating a grant fund for retail capital improvements

$2 million Purchasing and developing about 25 acres of open space near the LIRR station

$1.36 million Purchasing a permanent location for the Westbury Arts Council

$430,000 Upgrading the Westbury Recreation and Community Center complex

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